2015 marks as an interesting year for movies based upon Marvel Comics. While Marvel’s own movie studio continued its winning streak of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with the releases of Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron, a well known property called The Fantastic Four which is licensed off to another studio failed on all levels. The reason why this is interesting is because Marvel has been able to put out really successful movies based on characters that aren’t really household names. When Iron Man was announced and an amateurish poster appeared online the fan base didn’t have much hope. Nowadays he has become one of the most profitable cinematic characters around. Marvel has been able to craft enjoyable movies, with a certain level of quality based on comic book characters who are at least a little bit goofy. They have a guy running around in an American flag, a Norse god, a smart mouthed raccoon and a walking tree. Yet all of these characters have been embraced by audiences world wide. The latest addition to this colorful bunch: Ant-Man.
Ant-Man is about an ex-convict named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) trying to better his life. But his particular set of skills of being able to pull off extremely complicated heists have peaked the interests of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). 25 years ago Pym discovered how he could makes someone the size of an ant while retaining his original human strength. The main advantage would be that whole armies could enter enemy territories without being spotted and take a location by surprise. Pym saw the potential danger of such power and vowed never to finish his discovery or even share what he has so far. Much to the dismay of several military instances as well as his protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). But when Cross is on the verge of making the same discovery Pym wants to have Scott to break in the highly secured office and steal the Yellowjacket as Cross has named it and destroy his research. To help Scott do this he supplies him with a special suite making him be able to shrink and grow at any given moment, making him: The Ant-Man.
Ant-Man has some problems finding its voice during the first half. It has a surprisingly large cast and therefor a lot of people it has to introduce. There’s Scott and his crew, but there’s also his ex-wife and daughter. She has been remarried to a cop, who is keeping a close on him. Finally there’s Dr. Hank Pym and the troublesome relationship with his daughter Hope who is currently working for Cross. As you can tell these are a lot of pawns that have to be put in place meaning it takes a while before Lang actually becomes the Ant-Man and the movie can shift into the 5th gear. This is one of the elements most origin stories fall subject to as they have to give the main character an arch in which his reasoning for using his newly gained powers in a certain way is explained. Also obligatory are the scenes in which the protagonist learns to control his new gift/suit, something which seems to be inherited from all of the montages in mostly 80s sports movies.
Despite these hindrances Ant-Man works surprisingly well. By now I’ve restrained myself from criticizing Marvel’s choices of characters which will star in feature films. They are well aware of the fact that a lot of their characters are downright goofy, especially on paper, but they have this way of approaching the material in such a way it works. A lot of people complain about the MCU and how they are too light in their approach of the material, but this is a guy whose special power is to become the size of an ant and is actually being aided by an army of ants throughout the movie. How dark and brooding could you make such a character? Ever since Christopher Nolan has given the world three gritty Batman movies containing a certain sense of realism to them, all other comic book properties which aren’t released by Marvel try to take a more serious and dark approach. Spider-man, Super-man and the Fantastic Four are just a couple of properties which have had brightly colored successful movies in the past and now fail critically and/or commercially while Marvel keeps on releasing successful movies one after another.
Ant-Man might not be the surprise hit Iron Man once was, but it definitely is another worthy addition to the MCU. It has some exciting set pieces, a lot of funny moments and the best de-aging filter in the industry. Seeing an 80s Michael Douglas on screen brings back the same nostalgic feeling as the soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy, and I’m as much a sucker for nostalgia as for the image of a giant Thomas the Tank Engine toy crashing a house.